Time for our regular quick-fire reviews and impressions of what’s been under the spotlight at Retro Arcadia this week, old and new and a bit of both…

Whenever I play Space Harrier I will always end up dead on stage six. Every time without fail! And the more I play arcade submarine rail-shooter Battle Shark, I get as far as stage four with equal predictability! As we discovered when we looked at the Taito Legends compilation on PS2, it’s Operation Wolf meets Darius, where you’ve got slowly replenishing supplies of torpedoes to shoot everything that moves, including bonus mines that power-up your weaponry. It’s really good too! The periscope control translates well to the PS2 controller, with a cursor keeping up with the often frantic action very well, and every stage is mixed up with boss battles and occasional forays above the surface. We are going to cover it in more detail here at some point, and now I’ve spent a good chunk of time with it again this week that might be sooner rather than later.

I’m also still shooting stuff in Espgaluda II, and although I’ve now been playing it solidly for the best part of a month, it’s still throwing up so many cool moments! I’ve gone back to the original arcade mode, and while some of the later levels still take a few more credits than I’d like, the first half continues to be a bullet-hell thrill ride now I’m pretty adept at making the most of its quirky mechanics. Think I’m just about done with solely focussing on this for the time being all the same – the objective was novice mode as part of my schmup for beginners programme, and I’m clearing that with barely a life lost now! Incredible time was had by all, and I’ll be back (especially if I get the arcade stick I’m after for my birthday in a couple of weeks)! Going horizontal with Progear next, which definitely isn’t for beginners but I really want to play it, and have had a nice early dabble already! More next week…

Back to this week, and I’ve had such a good time with original PlayStation off-road racer Hardcore 4×4 from Gremlin Collection 1 on Evercade VS… Far more than I expected to! It all starts out so janky – the very PS1 graphics, the generic hard rock soundtrack, the wild controls and the guy that keeps shouting “Hardcore!” But then your eyes and ears adjust, and you start feathering the controls and using the mad undulations in the terrain to strategic advantage, and suddenly you’re winning races then championships, and you even look forward to the next quip from hardcore guy! I know it won’t be for everyone anymore, and probably never was, but as I start yet another title defence, it turns out it is for me!

Anyone that knows me on Twitter (@retroarcadian) also knows I often retweet links to the mass of new retro gaming stuff my friend Nick Jenkin produces every week on his stress-busting YouTube channel, and I’ve also been playing another racing game that he introduced me to on there a few weeks back. F-1 World Grand Prix for Nintendo 64 is kind of a missing link between my two favourite Formula 1 games, Microprose Formula One Grand Prix on Atari ST and F1 Racing Championship on PlayStation 2, albeit a lot closer to the latter. Anyway, I’ve been playing through a season, and while the controls are a little sluggish and the race action itself a little barebones, it’s hard to stop playing once you start! However, as much as I’ve enjoyed this old racer too, Nick did post a review of the sequel last week (check it out here) and it sounds like that might be where I should be spending my time next!

Finally this week, I did promise I’d stop dabbling with every Amiga game I could lay my hands on and settle on something to play properly on The A500 Mini, and that something is Zool! And that wasn’t the something I was expecting to land on; in fact, because I’d played a bit of it on the aforementioned Gremlin Collection on Evercade recently I pretty much ignored it, but I always like to try everything on these things so I got there in the end, and I was hooked way more than I had been previously! It’s an absolutely glorious game to look at (even if photos taken of the little telly it’s connected to are less so!) and its challenging platforming still feels great to play. Still so cruelly addictive too!

There has been several more Elden Ring hours as usual, but nothing anyone needs to hear about, and I’ve also dipped my toe in the water of the very wonderful horizontal schmup Tengai, but more on that next week! In the meantime, a quick preview of what’s to come at Retro Arcadia, and that’s going to be a countdown of my top ten ZX Spectrum loading screens (not that I could stop at ten, or ZX Spectrum come to that)! And it should be with you on Wednesday as usual, but as it’s also the end of the month, it’s also time to get out the retro radar and have a look at what’s coming in May, and we’ll do that on Friday, so see you there!